ATLANTA — Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory has tried to help his players keep faith that the season is not lost.
At least for one night, nearly everything fell into place for the Yellow Jackets.
“We talked before the game,” Gregory said. “We’re taking care of it tonight, you know what I mean? Tonight’s the night. If it takes 40 minutes, we’re going to figure it out, or if we win going away, we’re going to figure it out.”
Josh Heath scored a career-high 14 points, Demarco Cox added 12 and Georgia Tech snapped a 10-game series losing streak with a 63-52 victory over Clemson on Monday night.
The Yellow Jackets (12-14, 3-11 Atlantic Coast Conference) had lost four of five and began the night leading the league in losses.
Jaron Blossomgame and Austin Ajukwa each finished with 10 points for Clemson (15-11, 7-7). The Tigers have dropped three of four.
In a matchup of offensively challenged teams — Clemson was ranked No. 295 nationally and Georgia Tech No. 237 in scoring — the Tigers began the game 1 for 9 on 3-pointers before Damarcus Harrison’s trey made it 32-all with 12:14 remaining.
Less than 8 minutes later, the Jackets led by 18 after Marcus Georges-Hunt hit a 3.
Gregory was not surprised that Georgia Tech broke from its usual custom of blowing close games — 10 of their ACC losses had been by seven points or less — and closed out Clemson.
“The guys were great,” Gregory said. “I’m just telling you. Even in the timeouts, when (stuff) isn’t going well in some of these games, our guys have been off the charts. I can’t say it enough how good they’ve been with that stuff. I really can’t. It bodes well as we continue to move forward.”
Clemson cut the lead to nine points three times over the next 3 minutes, but after Travis Jorgenson’s free throw made it 59-49 with 1:12 remaining, the Tigers trailed by double digits the rest of the game.
Jordan Roper, who scored in double figures in six of last seven games for Clemson, finished with six points and went 0 for 4 beyond the arc.
“It was a tough night for us,” Roper said. “We didn’t play to the best of our ability. We just couldn’t get into a rhythm tonight.”
Georges-Hunt had 11 points and Robert Sampson pulled down 10 rebounds for the Jackets, who outscored the Tigers 40-20 in the paint.
Heath, a reserve guard, hit a layup high off the backboard to make it 56-45 and hit a pair of free throws in the final minute to help secure the victory.
Clemson: Fifth-year coach Brad Brownell, now 39-44 in the ACC, dropped to 9-1 in his career against Georgia Tech. … The Tigers were coming off a 21-point home win over Virginia Tech in which they hit a season-high 11 3-pointers. Against the Jackets, Clemson went 4 for 15 beyond the arc. “They never let us get in a flow,” Austin Ajukwa said. “They kept their foot on the pedal.”
Georgia Tech: Fourth-year coach Brian Gregory improved to 19-47 in the ACC and 1-7 against Brownell. … Gregory said afterward that junior guard Chris Bolden, who had started the last seven games, has been suspended indefinitely for “not adhering to the expectations of our program.” Gregory said he would not comment further. … Tadric Jackson started at shooting guard and finished with four points.
Clemson: Visits No. 4 Duke on Saturday.